A couple of years ago the future of Scotland’s police service was discussed on this blog. The consensus was that policing should be local and the number of regional forces was secondary.
Of course nobody listened to our opinions and with what appeared to be unseemly haste, our eight regional forces were merged into one and renamed Police Scotland. Nobody listened to Sir Charles Gray either. He is a former local government head.
...“On one occasion the possibility of a single force was raised. I have never forgotten the contribution by a senior officer who would go on to serve with considerable distinction.
“He said very firmly, it should not be considered. You could have a rogue chief with a few well-placed deputies in charge of what could become, to all intents and purposes, a personal army and a police state…
One of the counters to be axed is in my local town. I’ve visited there about half a dozen times and found my problems were handled speedily and with competence. Over the years though, my local service has been slowly eroded; first by the direct telephone line being discontinued and calls centralised to a switchboard in either Dundee or Perth. Then the hours of opening were gradually reduced because ‘there are not enough officers available to man the counter’.
Why should a police officer be required to man a local office counter? Doctors don’t man the local hospital's enquiries desk.
Police Scotland have been tasked with saving £1.1bn and come hell or high water Chief Constable Stephen House insists the target will be met and making hundreds of police civilian staff redundant, resulting in police officers having to take over their jobs, is all part of his plan.
I decided to live here for three reasons. One was the attraction of a small community, another was the presence of local hospital and the third was a very local police service which knew every nook and cranny in the area. We’ve fought long and hard to keep our hospital and, for the moment, it seems safe, but our police service is no longer local. An officer I spoke with over the weekend lived 24 miles away yet he had been allocated this area: “Don’t ask me why because I don’t know.”
When I asked of he was pleased with the changes he was reluctant to respond. Eventually I gathered he was rather unhappy, not least because he wasn’t ‘local’. “Don’t even mention cardboard policemen either,” I was informed. Of course I did and, knowing there is no love lost between the ‘beat bobby’ and the traffic police, said that his traffic colleagues won’t be thrilled at being replaced by a cut out.
Although he smiled at the comment I was very aware he felt demoralised at being unable to provide the service he wanted because his job now consists of ensuring the correct boxes are ticked above all else. ‘Local’ is a dirty word in any of the services these days.